Pain in the left arm may be harmless. If you've lifted heavy weights the day before or otherwise overworked your arm, a harmless sore muscle may be responsible for the pain in your left arm. But pinching a nerve of the armplexus can also lead to pain in the left arm.

However, caution is advised in case of sudden, severe pain in the left upper arm, because especially in older patients such a pain is often the first indication of a heart attack and thus represents an absolute emergency.

Therefore, it is important not only to pinpoint the pain but also to differentiate the types of pain.


The causes of pain in the left arm are quite varied and depend mainly on the type of pain (pulling, stabbing, annihilation pain). But the location of the pain is also crucial.

Pain in the left upper arm can arise on the one hand by incorrect loading. Especially in untrained patients who have taken over the day before in the gym with heavy dumbbells, this can lead to pain in the left arm, which are then due only to a sore muscles or a slight muscle strain.

Another cause of pain in the arm can be the entrapment of a nerve. Between two neck muscles (in the so-called Scalenuslücke, which is formed by the two Mm. Scaleni ) runs an arm plexus ( brachial plexus ), which is responsible for the nervous supply of the entire arm and the shoulder area. Between these two muscles, the arm plexus can be squeezed. If this happens on the left side, it can cause pain in the left upper arm.

In addition, the brachial plexus passes under the clavicle and must pass through the axilla again. Above all, patients who make a lot of calls and place their headphones on their left shoulders to free both hands, severely contract the plexus. This can lead to damage or jamming of the nerves, which can lead to pain and numbness in the left arm.

Waking up with numbness and pain in the left arm at night may be the reason for an outstretched arm. If you fall asleep at night with a left arm outstretched upwards, this can lead to a narrowing of the nerve plexus, which then manifests itself as a result of numbness and pain in the left arm. Frequently, the pain reaches into the fingertips, but can also be limited to individual arms.

If there is a pain in the left arm as well as pain in the arm, serious illnesses such as a heart attack or a pulmonary embolism must be ruled out.

Illustration causes of pain in the left arm


The accompanying symptoms of pain in the left arm can be very different.

If you have a numbness in addition to the pain in your left arm, you may expect an entrapment or damage to a nerve.

However, if you can not move the arm properly because the pain is getting too strong, you may expect bursitis, muscle inflammation or osteoarthritis.

If the pain in the left arm occurs after vaccination, the symptoms are harmless and can only be considered as a result of the vaccine. The pain should disappear after a few days.

However, if the accompanying symptoms are sweating and nausea, older patients should immediately be reminded of a heart attack and the emergency physician should be contacted! It is always an emergency that needs to be taken seriously.


Physiotherapy can help with many types of left arm pain.

Depending on the condition, the therapy for pain in the left arm is different.

In case of an overload or after a vaccination helps only wait until the pain in the left arm disappears. However, you can also train the arm slowly and thus promote muscle building through continuous muscle training.

If bursitis is responsible for the pain in the left arm, longer physiotherapy should be considered as therapy. Also, a glucocorticoid injection into the subacromial space is possible in severe cases to relieve the swelling.

In the case of discomfort caused by entrapment of nerves, therapy should involve physiotherapy and possibly change the lifestyle (no telephoning with a jammed receiver).

Even with osteoarthritis, the best therapy option is physiotherapy and regular muscle training.

In a heart attack, however, a therapy is difficult. Although the patients are given nitrate-containing preparations immediately after the heart attack, which cause the coronary vessels to expand again, complete therapy is not possible. Once dead heart muscle cells can not be regenerated and therefore there is no therapy that can undo a heart attack. The pain in the left arm disappears quickly after a heart attack.


In order to avoid pain in the left arm, prophylaxis provides only sufficient movement of the arms and a healthy lifestyle.

Permanent lifting of the arms over the head, for example when sleeping, should be avoided in order not to strain the bursa in the shoulder joint. Even unnatural or cramped postures, for example in front of the computer, should be avoided as much as possible.

Regular strengthening of the arm and shoulder muscles is also a prophylaxis to avoid pain in the left or right arm.

In order to avoid a heart attack, which also leads to pain in the left arm, prophylaxis offers only the avoidance of stress. Also, a low-fat diet and a lot of exercise lead to improved blood circulation, which can minimize the risk of heart attacks.


The prognosis for pain in the left arm is usually very good.

Physiotherapy, in particular, is a great way to cure or at least alleviate most pain.

Inflammation of the bursa ( Bursa sucacrominalis ) in the shoulder joint can be successfully controlled by physiotherapy and glucocorticoids .

If the pain in the left arm is caused by an entrapment of the nerves, the treatment is more difficult and a prognosis is not always so easy. Especially in young patients constriction of the plexus often fuses.

The prognosis for a heart attack depends very much on how old the patient is and how quickly the heart attack is detected. For fast action, however, the forecasts are usually good. (see also: heart attack main article)

Duration of pain in the left arm

The duration of pain in the left arm is generally poor. The duration varies individually depending on the cause of the pain. If, for example, the pain is due to entrapment of nerve fibers, so that the pain and concomitant numbness occur, the symptoms can disappear promptly after removal of the entrapment by, for example, a change in the position of the arm. If a sore muscle is responsible for the pain, the pain will resolve after one week at the latest, depending on the intensity of the muscle soreness. In both of these cases, an uncomplicated and rapid healing process is foreseeable. The situation is different when the pain in the left arm is based on a herniated disc. A herniated disc is a more serious condition, with which one must expect even with optimal therapeutic supply with a healing period of at least 4-6 weeks. As a rule, sufferers have to struggle with it for several months. The duration of pain in the left arm can therefore be from a few days to several months.

The different forms

shoulder pain

Common causes of shoulder-arm syndrome are cervical spine disorders.

Pain that occurs simultaneously in the left arm and shoulder can have a variety of causes. The so-called "shoulder-arm syndrome" is one of the most common reasons for the occurrence of pain in the left arm and on the shoulder. Direct cause of the development of the shoulder-arm syndrome are often diseases of the cervical spine. The cervical spine, as a relatively static axis organ, is already subjected to enormous stresses during everyday activities and can therefore show normal signs of wear, especially in older people. Pronounced, regular loads that exceed the usual level can accelerate this wear process. In this context, however, it should be clear that ordinary cervical spine wear does not necessarily lead to left arm and shoulder pain.

In most cases, the patient remains completely symptom free even with normal wear of the cervical spine body. Patients suffering from the shoulder-arm syndrome, however, have damage that goes far beyond the appropriate age standard. The typical symptoms of shoulder-arm syndrome include pain that begins at the neck and goes from there to the right or left shoulder and arm. In addition, the affected patients may experience neurological complaints such as numbness, tingling and / or paralysis. In most cases, the musculature of the neck shows up as tense and hardened. For this reason, in addition to the pain on the left shoulder and the left arm in addition to significant movement restrictions. The treatment of the shoulder-arm syndrome, which can lead to pain in the left arm and the shoulder in the affected patients, takes place in several steps. Above all, the adequate relief of the complaints plays a crucial role in the treatment. The drug of first choice in such cases is a painkiller from the group of so-called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The advantage of these drugs is that they have both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

In addition, regular acupuncture and / or local massages can help relieve long-term pain in the left arm and shoulder. In the case of the shoulder-arm syndrome, one usually tries first to achieve an effect by gentle treatment as possible. However, if the symptoms do not decrease significantly within a period of about two to three weeks, more invasive treatment strategies may need to be initiated. Another cause of pain on the left arm and left shoulder may be the presence of a heart attack (myocardial infarction). Such a pain symptom is one of the first and most important signs of the imminence of a heart attack.

Pain on the inside of the left arm

Pains on the left arm, which are confined to the inside, are usually caused by muscular causes. In cases where the pain occurs suddenly, for example during a stress situation, there is a possibility that a muscle strain is present. The muscles that lie on the inside of the left arm are mainly responsible for bringing the arm to the trunk. If these muscles are excessively stressed by physical activity, pain may occur on the inside of the left arm. The term "muscle strain" (technical term: distension) is generally understood as the process of muscle stretching that exceeds the usual level and leads to a strong contraction of the individual muscle fibers.

As a result, hardening occurs within the muscle tissue. The muscle fibers themselves, however, are not affected. Although the pain on the inside of the left arm caused by muscle strain is very severe, permanent damage can usually be ruled out. However, full recovery of the affected muscle can only be guaranteed if any exercise is stopped immediately after the onset of muscle strain. A muscle strain that causes pain on the inside of the left arm should be treated as soon as possible. Performing simple first aid measures can effectively alleviate the discomfort caused by the strain. A medical intervention is necessary only in the rarest cases.

The most important first aid measures that should be initiated in the event of atrial pain on the inside of the left arm can be derived from the so-called PECH scheme.

P = (pause) Sports activities should be stopped immediately.

E = (Ice) Cooling can help accelerate the healing process.

C = (Compression) Apply elastic pressure bandage.

H = high camps

Pain in the left arm and heart attack

Pain in the left arm and on the left shoulder is one of the common symptoms of acute myocardial infarction (acute myocardial infarction). A heart attack is a persistent circulatory disorder of certain parts of the heart muscle. In most cases, the obstruction of one or more coronary arteries is caused by small blood clots. The heart attack, which among other things leads to pain in the left arm, is the most common cause of death in the industrialized countries. Often it comes to the affected patients years before the heart attack to the occurrence of the so-called coronary heart disease (short: KHK). If it comes within a significantly altered coronary artery for blood passage disorder, the vessels react to it with a convulsive vasoconstriction (coronary spasm). In this way, the blood flow is further reduced and the blood supply of the heart muscle decreases again.

The severity of myocardial infarction, which causes pain in the left arm, depends on the location as well as the severity and duration of the circulatory disturbance. In general, heart attacks can occur in different areas of the heart muscle. The exact location of the myocardial infarction depends on which coronary vessel is impaired. For example, occlusions of the right coronary artery lead to a heart attack in the area of ​​the posterior wall. Diseased changes in the left coronary artery, on the other hand, localize to the anterior wall of the heart. In rare cases, a heart attack can be provoked by other diseases. Typical example of such a disease is pericarditis. In addition, bleeding and tumors at or in the immediate vicinity of the heart can lead to the development of a myocardial infarction.

Basically, any person of advanced age can experience a heart attack that causes left arm pain. Nevertheless, there are several risk factors that increase the risk of developing a heart attack many times over. Among the most important risk factors in this context are:

  • nicotine consumption
  • Diabetes (diabetes mellitus)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • family bias
  • overweight
  • lack of exercise
  • high-fat diet

A heart attack can usually be diagnosed early on the basis of the typical symptoms. Most of the affected patients already complain of severe chest pain at the beginning. There is also typically a feeling of pressure just behind the sternum or chest tightness. In addition, many patients who have suffered a heart attack describe stabbing or tearing pain. These pain can occur locally in the chest or radiate to the left arm and left shoulder. Some of those affected even reported pain in the neck, jaw, upper abdomen and back area.

The pain that occurs during a heart attack is usually so severe that it is called the "annihilation pain". Other typical signs of a heart attack include shortness of breath, nausea, cold sweats and dread. In contrast to men, women who suffer from an acute myocardial infarction often show atypical symptoms. Although it often causes left arm pain in both genders, women often report stomach upset, exhaustion and sleep disorders. If a patient has an acute myocardial infarction, rapid intervention can have a decisive influence on the prognosis. The affected person can help themselves by immediately taking anticoagulant medicines (aspirin) and placing an emergency call.

Pain in the left arm with nausea

The combination of left pain with nausea is relatively specific and may be an indication of a serious acute heart problem. This refers to the heart attack. The pain that can radiate to the arm, are considered typical signs of a heart attack. The nausea is among other symptoms such as respiratory distress rather unspecific signs. Therefore, it is important to correctly interpret the combined symptoms. Especially women should be aware of nausea and at the same time pain in the left arm, as in the female gender, a heart attack is much more often alone by such nonspecific signs. The classic annihilation pain is not rare in women, for example. Often the nausea is accompanied by heavy sweats. If you suspect a heart attack, it is important to contact an ambulance.

Pain in the left arm due to a disc herniation of the cervical spine

A disc herniation in the cervical spine is considered to be a rarer manifestation site among the locations of a herniated disc. Therefore, it is even more important to remember when diagnosing pain in the left arm that it may be a disc herniation of the cervical spine. The protruding disc material displaces the surrounding nerve tissue, resulting in pressure-related pain. Typically, sufferers suffer a herniated disc at C5 / 6, at the level of C6 / 7 or C7 / 8. In any case, pain radiating from the shoulder to the left arm can be considered the first sign of herniated disc. The pain can have a different character: sometimes they are described as dull, but sometimes also as stinging or oppressive. It is typical that the pain first manifests in the neck and neck area and then migrates into the arm. By the way, purely isolated pain due to a herniated disc is rather rare. Most of the time, affected people feel a paresthesia in their arms, that is to say, sensory discomfort, for example in the form of a tingling sensation. In order to verify whether the pain in the arm can be traced back to a herniated disc, imaging techniques can provide information. The suspicion of a herniated disc can also be hardened if sufferers can provoke the pain in the left arm by tilting the head backwards or to the side.

Pain in the left arm with numbness

Pain in the left arm associated with a feeling of numbness may have various causes, which in turn are more or less harmless. In any case, a doctor must be consulted to clarify the symptoms of deafness. As a harmless cause the clamping of nerves of a nerve bundle can apply. More precisely, this bundle of nerves is the so-called brachial plexus. It contains nerves responsible, among other things, for the motor and sensory innervation of the shoulder, arms and hands. Due to the tightness of the shoulder and armpits, where the brachial plexus is localized, certain postures may cause the plexus to contract or contract with pain and numbness. Typical postures that lead to nocturnal lying on an upwardly outstretched arm. As a less harmless cause of numbness, a herniated disc may apply. Depending on the severity of a disc herniation in the cervical spine, sensations such as tingling or a feeling of numbness may occur.

Pain in the left arm into the hand

Pain from the left arm to the hand may have different lead structures. For example, it can be both muscular pain and painful irritation of nerve structures. An accurate diagnosis is therefore very important for pain that radiate into the hand. Often tendinitis, fractures or other more serious diseases are considered. Fortunately, in many cases, fortunately, it's all about muscle tension. There are some muscles on the forearm, the lugs of which lie in different places of the hand. Repetitive movement patterns and heavy use of these forearm muscles can cause muscle soreness or tension. The pain radiates from the forearm to the hand. Depending on the exact localization, ie the inside or outside of the forearm, and the course of the pain radiation, conclusions can be drawn about the affected muscle. The only meaningful therapy is the protection or if possible short-term immobilization of the muscle groups. In addition, an analgesic ointment, such as Voltaren® ointment, may be helpful. As already mentioned, however, one must not mistake more serious illnesses. These include, for example, neurological disorders that are associated with nerve pain. A herniated disc may also trigger pain in the left arm, radiating into the hand.

Pain radiating to the chest

Suspicion of myocardial infarction can be confirmed by ECG.

Even with chest pain that radiates to the left arm, it is suspected that it is the first sign of an acute myocardial infarction. Affected patients should immediately make an emergency call (phone: 112) and express a suspected heart attack. Rescue personnel will arrive promptly and initiate appropriate initial measures. As a rule, the suspicion of the presence of an infarction is confirmed by ECG. In this context, however, it should be noted that not every form of myocardial infarction is visible in the ECG. The so-called "non-ST elevation myocardial infarction" can only be diagnosed by a blood test. The acute treatment of myocardial infarction, which leads to pain in the chest and left arm, aims primarily at optimizing the supply of oxygen to the heart, relieving pain and avoiding complications.

As a rule, nitroglycerin spray, morphine preparations, acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), clopidogrel and heparin are administered on-site. The administration of oxygen is only necessary if a particularly low red blood cell oxygen saturation is measured. The general administration of oxygen is not recommended in a heart attack because of its potentially harmful effects. The clinic will then take further diagnostic measures and initiate a suitable treatment strategy. In a heart attack that causes chest pain and left arm pain, so-called reperfusion therapy is the drug of choice.

Arm pain combined with pain in the left leg

Pain that occurs simultaneously on the left arm and left leg may be an indication of a postural defect. In the affected patients, there is the possibility that the left side of the body is already too heavily burdened with simple everyday activities. The posture error of the body axis can lead to bony changes in the long term. These changes mainly affect the spine, hip, knee and ankle. The causes for the occurrence of these postural mistakes can be manifold. In most cases, the symptoms experienced by the patient can be attributed to a long-term excessive burden. Misbehavior can be caused, for example, by frequent incorrect sitting or heavy physical work. In addition, they can be provoked by carrying heavy bags or rucksacks, being overweight and wearing bad footwear. In addition, postural changes that can lead to pain in the left arm and leg, are favored by lack of physical exercise and a weakly trained back and abdominal muscles.

Chronic pain in the arms and legs may also be associated with various general conditions. In direct comparison, however, these causes of pain on the left arm and leg are rather rare. A classic example of an underlying disease that can cause such symptoms is the so-called polyneuropathy, which can occur as a result of diabetes, alcohol abuse or intoxication. It is a disease of the nervous system. Affected patients usually feel at the beginning of especially bad sensations and a strong tingling sensation. In the further course it comes then to sensory disturbances and pain in the range of the arms and legs.

Pain in the left arm with sore muscles

Pain in the left arm can be attributed to many reasons. The most benign cause is muscle soreness. Muscular soreness is particularly common in both large biceps and triceps muscles. Affected individuals who have long been straining their arm muscles in the gym or during their free time can often not directly attribute the pain to muscle soreness. Not infrequently, the pain is not directly after stress, but only after 1-2 days, so that the connection is misjudged. This pain usually lasts only a few days. However, if the pain is particularly severe and persists even after one week, the muscle may even be torn. Then it is advisable to see a doctor.

Tingling in the arm

Pain in the left arm, which is accompanied by a pronounced tingling sensation, may indicate the presence of the so-called cervicobrachial syndrome.
This disease is usually based on irritation of the nerve root. For pain and tingling on the left arm, the cause of the nerve root irritation can be found mostly on the cervical spine. Typical changes that can restrict the function of the individual nerve fibers are the vertebral artery and the disc herniation of the cervical spine. The segments of the C5 / 6, C6 / 7 and C7 / 8 cervical vertebrae are particularly frequently affected.
Prolonged compression of the nerve root can lead to permanent motor failures in addition to left arm pain and tingling. For this reason, affected patients should visit a specialist in a timely manner and have the cause of the complaint clarified. By quickly initiating a suitable treatment, consequential damage can often be avoided.

Cold / headache

Body aches, for example, in the form of pain in the left arm, are among the most common complaints that lead to a visit to the family doctor. The causes of this condition can range from a common cold to severe nervous system disorders. Typically, body aches that can be attributed to a cold never occur isolated on a limb. Rather, the affected patients feel pain in the left arm and in the area of ​​the other extremities in case of a cold or a flu infection. In addition, the typical for a cold body aches usually acute, so shortly before other symptoms set on.

Left arm pain that persists for weeks is usually caused by another underlying condition. In infections caused by bacterial or viral agents, such as a cold, it comes next to the body aches to other complaints. Most of the affected patients also describe the presence of headache, fever and fatigue.

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